Health insurance statistics

Is health insurance worth the expense?

The perks of private health insurance include having a wide choice of treatments, bypassing waiting times and having a more comfortable hospital experience.

We found that, despite the benefits of health insurance, only a small proportion of UK citizens are covered. We’ve looked into how health insurance costs have increased over time, how they fare compared to the most popular insurances and why health insurance might be worth looking further into.

Quick facts

  • The average premium for UK private health insurance is £1,435 per year
  • Over half (53%) of the UK population admitted they would pay for private healthcare treatment
  • 13% of UK consumers claim to belong to the Private Medical Insurance scheme

The average spend on insurance premiums in 2019 by type

Most people will own more than one type of insurance, with the majority of the 1,046 respondents here reporting to have at least car, home or contents insurance.

Type of insurance Percentage
Car 63%
Home 55%
Contents 50%
Life 35%
Private health 13%
Accident 11%
Legal expenses 9%
Statuatory health 7%
Personal liability 6%
None of the above 13%
Other 8%
Don't know 2%

Private health insurance is the fifth-most owned type of insurance, with 13% of respondents saying they have it. Car insurance is the most popular insurance type due to it being mandatory for the vast majority of all drivers, while private health insurance is costly and often covers treatments that are also provided for free by the NHS.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) of health insurance over time

CPI is a statistical estimate based on the weighted average of a group of items in a certain market. CPI essentially indicates how much something costs compared to other products or services. Over a 11 year period from 2008 to 2019, the CPI for health insurance has shown steady but consistent growth, to peak at 121 in 2019.

Year CPI
2008 65
2009 68
2010 75
2011 80
2012 86
2013 92
2014 97
2015 100
2016 107
2017 112
2018 116
2019 121

The increased CPI indicates that health insurance has steadily increased in price over the last 11 years. The average year-on-year increase in price for health insurance over this 10 year period is 6% per year.

The expense and waiting times for common medical treatments

We’ve ranked six medical treatments based on the cost of the treatment and the average waiting time for the treatment on the NHS. Both knee surgery and hip replacement surgery are good examples of when a person would save both time and money by being covered by private health insurance.

Treatment Cost of private treatment Average wait time on NHS
Knee replacement £11,814 13.5 weeks
Hip replacement £10,776 13.5 weeks
Cataract surgery £2,410 12.4 weeks
MRI scan £1,298 2.6 weeks
Skin lesion removal £940 6.5 weeks
CT scan £870 2.2 weeks

With private health insurance costing just over a tenth of the cost of the two replacement surgeries (£1,435 a year), which also demand that you wait around 13 weeks for the treatment under the NHS, you can see how health insurance can appear to be the more desirable option. The scans, on the other hand, cost a similar amount to an annual health insurance payment and require only a 2-week wait under the NHS.

The NHS at a glance

  • The budget for the Department of Health and Social Care back in 2020 was £139.3 billion, £5.4 billion more than it was in 2019.
  • In 2019, the NHS employed more than 1.2 million people in the UK.
  • At the time, the average staff member working full time earned a basic salary of £32,000.
  • Before the pandemic hit, there were over 24,000 calls to 999 in August 2019.

How prepared for Coronavirus was the NHS?

Although there are a wide range of variables that need to be taken into account, such as each country’s lockdown precautions and the number of tests carried out, this graph does appear to show how there was once a broad correlation between medical resources available and fatality rate regarding how each countries healthcare system handled the pandemic when it first hit back in 2020.

Doctors (per 1000) Nurses (per 1000) Hospital Beds (per 100,000) Mortality Rate rate (%)
China 2 2.7 4.2 4.04
Spain 3.9 5.7 3 6.58
UK 2.9 7.8 2.4 5.04
Italy 4 6.7 3.4 9.51
France 3.4 10.8 6.5 4.33
South Korea 2.3 6.9 11.5 1.33
Germany 4.3 12.9 8.3 0.42

How much does NHS staff earn on average?

Of those working full time for the NHS, the mean basic pay is just under £32,000. This does, however, vary depending on the role and the experience you have. The best-paid role at the NHS is as a hospital practitioner/clinical assistant, which pays on average £113,000 per year.

Role Basic salary (£)
Hospital Practitioner / Clinical Assistant £113,765
Consultant £91,978
Associate Specialist £83,872
Other and Local HCHS Doctor Grades £83,442
Senior managers £80,315
HCHS doctors £65,638
Specialty Doctor £62,426
Staff Grade £57,500
Managers £48,826
Specialty Registrar £43,041
Professionally qualified clinical staff £39,348
Core Training £38,470
Scientific, therapeutic & technical staff £36,000
Midwives £33,970
Nurses & health visitors £32,385
All staf average £31,866
Foundation Doctor Year 2 £31,097
NHS infrastructure support £29,739
Ambulance staff £28,277
Foundation Doctor Year 1 £27,028
Central functions £26,614
Support to ST&T staff £20,762
Support to ambulance staff £20,416
Support to clinical staff £19,934
Support to doctors, nurses & midwives £19,714
Hotel, property & estates £19,143
Other staff or those with an unknown classification £19,089

A&E waiting times

There were 2.13 million attendances to A&E in August 2019. This is 6.4% more than there were in August 2018. The number of visits to A&E in the last 12 months was 3.9% higher than it was in the 12 months prior. While the vast majority of patients (86.3%) were seen in 4 hours or less, this is still far below the target rate of 95%, which was last met in July 2015. Over 260,000 patients waited longer than 4 hours, while 372 patients waited more than 12 hours to be seen.

The cost of an ambulance

There were over 24,000 calls to 999 in August 2019, 13,000 of which resulted in a patient being transported to an emergency department. In August 2019, the average response time to the most critical cases (known as C1) was 7 minutes and 5 seconds, just above the target time of 7 minutes. The next most severe incidents (C2) had an average response time of 21 minutes and 13 seconds in August 2019, longer than the 18-minute standard.

  • In 2019/2020, there were 14 NHS ambulance bodies in the UK – 11 in England and 1 in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • NHS ambulance trusts in England spent £92 million on private ambulances in 2018/2019, £2 million more than in the previous year.
  • Air ambulances in England, Northern Ireland and Wales are all provided by charities.
  • Scotland has one charity air ambulance to work alongside four NHS-funded air ambulances.


Office for National Statistics
NHS Digital

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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